The Readers Haven’t Gone Away

by | Jun 7, 2013

I’ve been a longtime reader of Kris Rusch’s blog on publishing, linking to it often. If you don’t know it, you should.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an award-winning mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy writer. She has won two Hugo awards, a World Fantasy Award, and six Asimov’s Readers Choice Awards and, along with her husband Dean Wesley Smith, once owned and operated a publishing company.

Few writers have the kind of background that Kristine Rusch has, and she goes into depth on many publishing industry-related topics in her thoughtful and well-informed blog posts.

Reading a recent post called The Changing Playing Field, this paragraph stopped me:

Our industry is growing. We are getting new bookstores, new readers, new writers, and we haven’t hit the peak of the market yet. Why not? Because traditional publishers dropped the ball decades ago. Traditional publishers forgot that they sell books to consumers. Instead, they changed their business model to sell books to bookstores. When the independent bookstores declined at the turn of this century, traditional publishers started marketing to the big distributors and to the chain bookstores, which was why you heard such industry-wide panic when Borders went down. It wasn’t because the readers went away; it was because traditional publishers had no idea how to sell their books to people other than the ten to twenty buyers for national distributors and chain bookstores.—The Business Rusch: The Changing Playing Field

Even in this short excerpt from a very long article, you can see that understanding the history of book publishing gives you an insight into what’s happening today that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

What stopped me was the idea that the readers never went away when book publishers and bookstores started to experience the severe disruption in their business models that we are still going through.

Even though book publishing is a conservative business, inheriting practices and conventions from previous centuries, readers adapt to changing times, don’t they? I think this phenomenon is one of the forces behind the spectacular and ongoing growth of indie publishing.

The demand for good writing, for books that are solid and well put-together, the demand for stories, fantasies, exposés, intergenerational tales, for reflections on life, and for thrilling murder mysteries is still strong.

And the book itself, through its transition to various electronic formats is becoming more flexible, more malleable, with its text escaping to other lives and new ways of connecting with readers while creating real income for authors.

Along with the rise of social media and the unprecedented ability of a single person to gather huge communities, authors can now connect with tens of thousands of readers, get live market intelligence, and form real connections through the social sphere.

So there’s still the demand, still the readers, and all these great new tools, processes, and ways of connecting to our readers, engaging with them directly, and getting our writing into their hands.

It’s up to us to figure out how to navigate this world, but the payoffs—personal, financial, spiritual—are potentially huge.

I love that, don’t you?


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Guest

    And here I thought this was going to be an article about how television, movies, the internet, etc. haven’t “killed reading.” Then again, I wonder how often the average American will choose a good book when there’s the draw of a new episode of some “guilty pleasure” reality show on instead. Or a can’t-miss viral video, or “important” breaking news from the British royal maternity ward…

    Maybe it’s not all readers, just Americans?

  2. ABE

    As purveyors of an actual product which is not a commodity, reading content, the authors – and the readers, of course – are the only required links in the chain for our form of entertainment.

    All the rest, agents, publishers, distributors, editors, are middlemen, replaceable either completely or in part (though there are better editors and worse editors, for example, for a particular book, replacing one very good editor with another will alter the final product very little). If authors are going to pay for these services, they will also choose who to get them from.

    The main remaining problem is discoverability/marketing – but indie sites are springing up apace, and they can’t be controlled by the gatekeepers.

    So it is, indeed a Brave New World where people like you will help – but not control – the authors who provide the content.

    Really, that’s as it should be.

  3. Nancy Beck

    I’m a regular reader of Kris’s blog (and her husband’s, too, Dean Wesley Smith), and both have helped me tremendously in getting my indie writing career going (it’s a business, after all). It’s still in the early stages – I have 3 short novels and a mini short story collection in ebook – I just need to find the time to finish editing for typos, etc., in my next series! :-)

    The reason I Googled and found your blog is because I’m now doing page layout for an omnibus edition of those 3 short novels (all in the same series), and I needed ideas for interior typography. I’ve found quite a lot of useful info on that and other things.

    Who knew you had to lay out the interior of a print book? ;-) Dean Wesley Smith was the first to clue me in, and now I’m learning a lot more by going thru different posts here.

    So thank you for your blog!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Nancy. You’ll find a lot of the interior design and layout articles under the Book Construction Blueprint topic, but you should also check out my new site Book Design Templates which can cut your layout work dramatically. And if you click over there, go to the Guides menu option and you can download all my formatting articles in 1 free PDF.

      • Nancy Beck

        Thanks so much, Joel, just downloaded it. You provide a great service here, and I appreciate it tremendously.

  4. Ruth Schwartz

    Joel – I continue to be blown away by your insights and the quality of your writing, let alone all of the information you so generously share. This is a really important point that you make, and thanks so much for making it.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Ruth, thanks so much for your feedback, it’s great to have you as a reader.

  5. Tammy R

    I do love it, Kristine! I have been reading several of Joel’s articles, and I just love what you both are doing. My husband and I had no idea how we would publish our story ten months ago when we started our book (I know, sounds like a green newbie…and so that is a moniker I proudly wear!). By discovering blogs and indie publishing, we’re now “in print” and hearing from readers in Australia. It has been the best experience of our 15+yr marriage, and we have to thank people like you and Joel who continue to work tirelessly to make it possible!

    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s terrific Tammy, so glad to have been able to help.



  1. Die Woche im Rückblick 07.06. bis 13.06.2013 | sevblog - […] Joel Friedlander: The Readers Haven’t Gone Away […]

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